How To Give Kids Choices Without Giving Away Your Power!

Who Has Control Now??

Who Has Control Now??

Have you ever wondered who is in control you or your child? Children love having control. They have so many areas in their life where they have no control, when they find an opportunity to take it they will go for it every time. Their favorite person(s) to control is their parent(s)! They master it from a very young age. Even as babies they innocently use different cries to get our attention. Then as they grow into toddlers they use tears, temper tantrums and relentless pleading or whining to get what they want. It is like a tug of war and if we give in once they have won the battle and learned our breaking point which they will remember and use for a very long time. Giving a child choices in life gives them power and a bit of control without having them take over. As parents though it is good for us to learn how to offer our child choices to create win/ win situations instead of arguments and tears.

For instance, if you know you have to work the next day and your child needs to be in daycare by a certain time it might be good to offer the right choice to them. If you ask, “Do you want to go to Daycare tomorrow and play with your friends?” it gives them the power to control the situation and could be setting you up for a big argument. After all what do you do if your child says, “NO!!!!”? You could maybe stay home from work or spend half an hour convincing your child why they have to go to daycare. A better choice to offer could be, “Mommy has to work tomorrow and you get to go to Daycare, do you want to leave at 7:30 am so you can play with your friends longer or 8:00am so you can sleep in a bit more? This is win/win it doesn’t question the fact they have to go to daycare, it allows them to control what time they go or maybe even suggest a time in between so they get a bit extra play time and some extra sleep-in time.

When my kids were little I always found bedtime a challenge. There were so many areas that could start conflict, bath time, snack, teeth brushing, and story time so coming up with some good choices helped the night go a bit smoother and more peaceful.

If bed time was at 8:30pm I would always start at least a half an hour or an hour before when possible depending if it was bath night.

  •  On Bath Nights – “Do you want to take your bath before or after your bedtime snack?”
  • Snack time – Offer a choice between two different healthy snacks. (if my kids got what they wanted it would probably have been Ice Cream)
  • Teeth Brushing – “Time to brush your teeth, do you want to use mint or berry flavored toothpaste?” When my son was two he hated brushing his teeth and would refuse to open his mouth so he also got the choice of brushing the easy way (standing nicely with his mouth open) or the hard way (flipped over on the floor, pinned and rib tickled to get his mouth open) Sounds a little harsh but the job had to get done one way or the other. Funny enough being a boy he loved the hard way getting flipped and tickled was his favorite and we always ended up in a giggle fest afterwards.
  • Pajama time – “Do you want to wear the red or the blue pajamas tonight?” (this one works with a couple of outfits for getting dressed in the morning too)
  • Story time – Would always come last after they were ready and settled in bed. How long they took to get ready for bed would determine the length of story. If we only had 5 minutes before bedtime the story would have to be very short. If they were speedy that night and had 20 minutes left they could pick a longer book. If we didn’t have a favorite book we were reading that night I found it easier to narrow the choice for them and lay out 2-4 books to choose from for their story.

Choices work great in every situation from crossing the street – “You can hold my right hand or my left hand” to leaving a favorite activity – “We can leave now or in 5 minutes?” The key is to come up with choices that meet the end goal and one where both the parent and the child feel good about themselves afterwards.

My Child’s Art Work…What can I do with it All?

More Pictures! Where Do We Put It All?

More Pictures! Where Will We Put Them?

Kids produce a lot of art work especially from preschool to grade 7. If they love art and take extra classes after school there is even more! Each piece is so precious we hang it on the fridge or pin it to a wall until our house feels devoured by paintings and drawings. Then when our child is at school and we can’t stand it anymore we rip it all down and recycle it hoping they won’t notice when they get home.

At least that is what happened in our home. Sometimes I felt bad about throwing a piece away they had worked so hard on but we just didn’t have the room to keep it all. One year I tried keeping just the ones I really liked and ended up with a pile of dusty crumpled papers under my bed by the end of the year. It too went out to the bin. Then my oldest daughter Marie attended a week long art camp and came home with the most massive painting yet a 4’x4’ cave man painting. She loved it and I must admit it looked pretty cool but it consumed an entire wall. I really wanted to keep a memory of it so, prior to sending it to the bin I hung it up and took some close up photos of it framing the entire photo with her picture.

Turns out that was the best idea yet! From that point on we started taking pictures of all her art work. If the pieces were small enough we could scan them in and get a really clear copy. She didn’t feel so bad when it disappeared because we always had a picture of it she could look at. At the end of the year we had quite a beautiful collection of kid’s art work photos so we decided to print some off into Kids Art Cards and give sets out as Christmas presents that year. Her grandparents loved receiving the gift of homemade art cards and Marie was so proud to show them what she had been doing all year.

To this day I have a collection of my children’s art photos to choose from whenever I need a card printed off. They make great thank you, birthday or any occasion cards and it is a fun way to preserve a masterpiece that may never be produced the same again. 🙂

Restaurant Nightmares! Will We Ever Eat Out Again?

Ever been in a restaurant and watched a parent lose complete control of their child?  The child is running all over the restaurant, jumping in and out of other booths, crawling under the tables chatting and poking other diners generally being annoying. The parents of the child usually look utterly frustrated and embarrassed trying desperately to get their child to behave or trying to blend into the wall paper and pretend the little terror doesn’t belong to them. Ever been that parent?

Sit Nice Tommy, Dinner is almost here! Pleease...

Sit Nice Tommy, Dinner is almost here! Pleease…

I know an occasion when I have and I could have crawled under the table myself in embarrassment. Not that I was ignoring my child just that as a stay at home mom and deprived of adult conversation I was enjoying the moment with friends and kids being kids she was off. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for the restaurant staff and how dangerous for my child. What if Marie had run into a server carrying a tray full of hot food and drinks? It could have been a disaster.

After my experience I knew I needed to come up with some strategies to keep my kids busy at the table while waiting for their food. It is tough for little kids to sit quietly, by the time we get to the restaurant they are already hungry so to wait another 30-40 minutes for food to arrive is unbearable for them. What can we do to help them?

Dining Out Parenting Strategies…

  • Always carry a toy bag with you into the restaurant packed with age appropriate toys and books. Let’s face it the coloring sheet and crayons restaurants give out aren’t always enough.  I had a small back pack stuffed with Mega Blocks, toy cars, small books, a Barbie, a coloring book and crayons. We took it everywhere then when we were stuck in a line or waiting for food the kids always had something to do.
  • Keep a pen, small deck of cards and a pair of folding scissors in your purse as emergency backup just in case you forget the toy back pack. Many a time I have asked the waitress for a stack of napkins and spent the wait time drawing pictures and cutting out snowflakes with my children. The folding scissors could come in handy for all kinds of other tasks like cutting freezies, ribbon on birthday presents and loose threads. As the kids got older they would play card games to pass the time.
  • Have a 30 minute rule for restaurants. If we could not be seated, ordered and eating within 30 minutes at a restaurant we never went back.
  •  Don’t seat siblings together they are bound to find something to fight about. Our rule has always been “Keep em Seperated!”
  •  If your child is starving before you leave home bring some small snacks to the restaurant to keep them occupied. Dried cereal, fishy crackers, small cut up fruit or veggie’s in a container are perfect. A hungry child can be very cranky.
  • After ordering, take the kids to the bathroom to wash their hands and do any other necessary business if needed. It could kill 5-10 minutes of wait time especially if you check things out on the way there and back… maybe an interesting picture or plant.
  •  If the kids are really fidgety have one parent take them outside for a short walk, they can release come energy and the parent waiting can wait in peace and quiet then text or call them back in when the meal arrives. (this is a good one to rotate so each parent gets a turn enjoying the quiet before the meal)
  • Look for restaurants in your area with a ‘Play Zone” for kids. McDonalds maybe the biggest but it’s not the only one. Some family restaurants have a small toy corner where parents can amuse their children while waiting for their food. Google “Kid Friendly Restaurants” in your city for choices. My favorite one in Vancouver is ‘Sophie’s Cosmic Café’ the food is great, the walls are packed with old toys for the kids to look at and they have a small toy corner sectioned off for kids to entertain themselves. Definitely worth checking out.
  • If you have a favorite restaurant in your neighbourhood get a takeout menu and ask the staff if you could call your orders in ahead of time so the food would be almost ready when you arrive with your family at the restaurant. If it isn’t a super busy night and they know you restaurants can usually be accommodating.
  • Pack up, pay and leave. As our kids got older my husband and I had a rule… They would get three warnings if they didn’t behave we would pack up, pay and leave the restaurant before finishing. They would then each be responsible for reimbursing us the cost of their meal because of the inconvenience and embarassment of their chosen behaviours. Although we would have enforced this rule we never had to, by the second warning they usually decided to settle down instead of pay.
  • If the server was good and had lots of patience always leave a big tip! Especially when dining with young children. I figure they not only put up with us but had to clean up after my kids dropped food all over the floor and they deserved a good tip.
  • Last but not least if all else fails and being in a restaurant is totally unbearable “Don’t Eat Out Do Take Out!” It is always easier, no one has to cook and the kids can play at home until the food arrives. We have done many more nights of take out than dining out and everyone is happy!

I wish you all the best on your future dining out experiences and hope these tips will help your meal be a peaceful one. If you have a tip that has worked for you I would love to hear about it. Every idea helps and the more the better.

All Inclusive Birthday Party or Small Birthday Party… What Works for My Child?

So Many Presents!

Too Many Presents, Not Enough Time!

Whatever happened to small birthday parties with a few close friends? Now a day kid’s birthday parties have exploded to include the entire school or daycare class as well as close friends and family with 20-30 kids attending that the  child hardly knows. There are so many presents there is no time to open them at the party and they all get taken home with the birthday child. Maybe with the ‘all inclusive’ policies being taught in school’s parents feel obligated to invite everyone but there must be away around it. The party can be very costly and exhausting for the parents not to mention where to put all those toys.

When my daughter Anya was little she went to an ‘all inclusive’ birthday party for one of her kindergarten friends. I remember her being so overwhelmed with all the children there and disappointed when the gifts were all taken home to open and she didn’t get to see whether her friend liked her gift. To her that was one of the highlights of the party. Opening up presents at the party teaches valuable lessons to the birthday child too. They can’t just open a gift and toss it aside if they don’t like it or already have one when all their friends are watching.  They also have the opportunity to thank each friend for their gift personally before they leave the party.

Of course with smaller parties comes the problem of how to deliver the invitations without the whole class knowing there is a party happening? When my kids were in primary school they rarely had large birthday parties so I would discreetly hand out the invitations to their friend’s parents after school, phone, email or deliver it to their home. Then the children in the class who were not invited would not feel left out.

I would coach my child before their birthday party and explain that each friend had put a lot of thought into what to buy for them and were excited to watch them open it. If it was something they already had or didn’t like I told them not to say anything at the time because it might hurt their friend’s feelings. They could smile and thank their friend for the gift and place it with the rest. Then after the party we could talk about it and decide what to do with the duplicate or unwanted item. My kids learned to appreciate what they were given and to take their friends feelings into consideration when they gave out their invitations and opened presents.

Maybe a solution for those who would still like to have an ‘all inclusive’ Birthday Party could be to hold a Toonie or a Fiver party where each guest gives a Toonie or Five dollar bill as their present. The birthday boy or girl could then take the money and buy something special with it they may have been saving for. They might even decide to give a portion to charity and learn about giving back to their community. There would be no presents to worry about opening at the party and the birthday boy or girl could tell their guests what they’d like to buy with the money so their guests would know what they contributed towards. For the birthday child’s parents this also relieves the bulk of ‘stuff’ coming back into their home after the party. I mean really how many toys does a child need? I know my kids always had an over abundance of toys and we just didn’t have enough space to fit them all.

Always Make Time For Yourself!

As busy Moms we are constantly multi-tasking. Taking kids to school and after school activities each day, Dr & Dentist appointments, cooking, cleaning, laundry, tidying, helping with homework, and dealing with the endless paper trail of mail, forms to be signed and notices from the school….. The list goes on and I am exhausted just thinking about it all. When do we ever get a moment to ourselves? Maybe an hour or two after the kids go to sleep or 5 minutes if they procrastinate on going to sleep and then we have chores to catch up on before it is our turn to rest.

Has anyone of your kids (or partner for that matter) Ever said,

“Hey mom, you work so hard, go and take some time for yourself and I will finish folding those clothes for you.”

Or

“Hey honey, you need a break I will finish scrubbing the toilets and washing the floors for you”

Ha! Pretty Funny, I think I would fall over on the spot from shock! As a mom when it comes to breaks it’s a fend for yourself world. If we don’t make time for ourselves the family is quite happy to have us as their caregiver 24/7.

A Mom's Escape is Just What I Need!

A Mom’s Escape is Just What I Need!

Ever since my kids were babies I have always made a point of squeezing in some time in my day for me. Taking care of myself makes me a better mom. I am a happier, more peaceful person and have more patience and energy with my family when I have created some time in my day for me.

Here is a list of my top 10 escapes…

  1. A quiet space, cup of tea and a good book.
  2. Meditate – I can do it anywhere and in 20 minutes I feel like a new person.
  3. Coffee with a friend – a chance to unwind and relax together
  4. One hour Pedicure- a bit of pampering goes a long way
  5. A Nap – Babies need them and so do I (still one of my favorites only now I nap and my kids don’t)
  6. Grocery shopping By Myself! – No screaming kids, whining or I wants’, could take 2-4 hours, Heaven
  7. An afternoon at the beach – Lying in my portable hammock, basking in the sun, with a good book
  8. Actually sit and watch an entire movie without interruptions – Rare but possible
  9. Girls Days – a day with my friends walking on a beach, shopping and lunch. (then maybe dinner and a movie if we are lucky)
  10. Girls Weekend- The Best! My Favorite! Girl time and me time all in one. I try to get in at least 2-3 per year depending on my friends schedules. I always come back relaxed and refreshed.

So think about all things you used to love to do when you had spare time and make sure you schedule an “escape” in your day, every day. Even if it is just 15-20 minutes of doing something you love it will help you re-energize for the rest of your day.

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Disclaimer

The information on this site is based on the personal experience of the author. There are no guarantees of a perfect method to raise a child, it is all trial and error. Please feel free to try some of the suggestions on this site and let me know how you make out. If you would like to use any words or pictures from this blog please contact me for written permission. © 2013

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